WEST RIDGE: THE UNDERRATED SECRET

Do you want a 1920s-style bungalow at a great price?  West Ridge is the place.   Now is the time.     West Ridge may best be described as a well-kept secret.     Compared to its Rogers Park, Uptown, and Lincoln Square neighbors, West Ridge is quite underrated.   Don’t expect that to last very long, though.   West Ridge is an excellent value, full of vintage 1920s architecture and as culturally diverse as its nearby neighborhoods.   I predict prosperitya renaissance for West Ridge.   After all, West Ridge sold more single-family homes than any of its neighboring areas.   Single-family homes are excellent for a neighborhood, with a greater tendency toward owner occupation.   Get in now while West Ridge is still affordable and still something of a secret.Attention, buyers:   The average sale price of vintage West Ridge bungalows in the last six months was $308,400.   Not only are West Ridge bungalows filled with 1920s-era charm and character, but they are located in a neighborhood where Rogers Park Metra station is easily walkable.   Another convenience :   A new Dominick’s Fresh Store has just made its new home in the area, on Damen north of Devon.

Attention, sellers:   Last week, I met with about 25 homeowners from the West Ridge Bungalow Association at the Northtown branch of the Chicago Public Library in West Ridge.    Happily, 32 West Ridge homes sold during the second quarter of 2009 (based on statistics from the Chicago Association of Realtors).   This is an increase of 30% over the second quarter of 2008.   Median prices were lower than in 2008, but with good reason:   Short sales and foreclosures accounted for 11 of the homes that sold.

My advice to these 25 homeowners:     Don’t lose heart because I’m predicting increased demand for single-family homes.     Condo dwellers are tiring of the communal life, where they tend to experience considerably less privacy than in a standalone home.   Noise levels generated by close living can make communal living a bit too close for comfort.   Also, homeowner association fees are tricky and sometimes tack on unnecessary charges (it’s always wise to take a look at a recent association financial statement before buying a condo).    Some CCR’s (Covenants, Codes and Restrictions) can be rather prohibitive as far as the bylaws of property use.   Usually, you are quite limited as to the exterior improvements you can make on a condo.   Not so on a standalone home.   In addition, some associations may prohibit pets and not allow the renting or subletting of units.   You are free of such rules as the owner of a single-family home.

So, if you are a West Ridge seller or plan to sell even in a few years, it’s never too early to spruce up your home.   Painting far and away offers the best return on your investment.   Also, even if your older home hasn’t the latest furnishings, keep it clean and uncluttered.   Taking a minimalist approach will make your home more attractive and spacious to prospective buyers.

Your landscape is the first thing buyers see when they approach your property.     Make it appealing to the eye, and they’ll want to see the inside of your home, too.   A fabulous resource for landscaping ideas is The Rogers Park Garden Group.

Interested in supporting local landscape improvements?   Donate your items to the Second Annual Indian Boundary Rummage Sale.   To donate items, please call Michael Oster at 773-507-8095.

Attention, bungalow lovers!   Don’t miss the Bungalow Expo on Saturday, October 17 from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. at the Merchandise Mart.  If your budget will allow, updated kitchens and bathrooms provide a nice return on your investment.   Buyers love when these rooms are tastefully updated yet flow with the vintage feel of the bungalow.     With move-in kitchen and bath conditions, you might just have a bidding war over your home.     Generally, though, even modest updates of kitchens and baths can bring a close return on costs.   Visit our website and read our newsletter for Cost Versus Value of Home Remodeling Projects.

WEST RIDGE – BUNGALOW LOVER’S DREAM NEIGHBORHOOD

Do you dream of someday placing your gorgeous mission style dining table beneath a crystal chandelier in the midst of a dining room circa 1924?   Do you imagine showcasing your treasured Bavarian china in cabinets, leaded glass doors intact, flanking a built-in buffet?   How about looking up to admire the patina of vintage crown moldings above, gleaming hardwood floors below?      Do you see built-in bookcases and a fireplace flanked by sconces and stained-glass windows in the living room?

You’re not alone in your dream of owning a bungalow.   Your dream could come true in Chicago’s West Ridge Bungalow District, an historic 1920s enclave of culturally diverse people who love bungalow-style architecture.   These 1920s-era structures overflow with character thanks to the designs of notable architects Benedict Bruns, Lyman Allison, A.E. Norman and Ernest Braucher.

See the beauty for yourself and walk or drive through The West Ridge Bungalow District.   Meander around the 6600 block of North Fairfield Avenue, the 2700 block of West North Shore Avenue, the 6600 block of North Washtenaw Avenue, the 6400, 6500, 6600 and 6700 blocks of North Talman Avenue, the 2600 and 2700 blocks of West Albion Avenue, the 6500 block of North Rockwell Street, the 2500 block of West Arthur Avenue, the 6500 block of North Maplewood Avenue and the West side of the 6500 block of North Campbell Avenue.

True to its 1920s roots, West Ridge has remained just as culturally diverse as when it was settled.     The neighborhood’s residents like it that way.   Longtime West Ridge resident Maribeth Brewer is one of them.     Brewer, who runs West Ridge Bungalow Neighbors, has faith in the neighborhood’s rich ethnic past, present and future.   Maribeth Brewer and her husband, Greg, an architect, love the bungalow they have restored and called home for the past 8 years.   You can join the lively neighborhood association of West Ridge Bungalow Neighbors for only $15 per year.   This is a small price paid to learn more about the area’s history, meet neighbors, help educate the public about the neighborhood, and be a part of the historic area’s preservation and future.

Maribeth Brewer and other volunteers, with guidance from the Historic Chicago Bungalows Association, were instrumental in putting their neighborhood on the Chicago map of must-see neighborhoods.   Their painstaking research efforts of every structure in existence within the boundaries of the West Ridge neighborhood yielded a significant end result:    Becoming an official member on the National Register of Historic Places.     Homes on the blocks listed above make up Talman West Ridge (so named Talman West Ridge as Talman Avenue lies at the district’s center).   This puts this area of rich bungalow architecture, perhaps a well-kept secret, on the map, and understandably so.   You can get away from it all and still be in the city in this quiet yet vibrant neighborhood where your local park also has a petting zoo.

Like Maribeth Brewer, who loves 1920s structures and cultural diversity, you too can live in a vintage 1920s bungalow full of character within walking distance of more character.   Enjoy an afternoon with a spicy lunch at one of Devon Avenue’s restaurants.   Stroll around the markets and other cultural venues as you watch the people.   You’ll be swept from Chicago to India, Pakistan, and Israel, if only for an afternoon.

Watch for my next blog, where you will hear of my recent meeting with members of the West Ridge Bungalow Association.   You’ll learn how affordable and accessible this historic neighborhood is for you.

Bungalows Get Historic Status in West Ridge

You may say Maribeth Brewer and Jo Stavig are bonkers for bungalows.   These two West Ridge residents (friends and neighbors) are intent on gaining National Register Bungalow Historic Status for the majority of the bungalows in the West Ridge neighborhood.   In gaining Historic Status, bungalow owners who spend at least 25% of their home’s value in rehabilitation are provided property tax relief.   To accomplish this and with the help of volunteers, Brewer and Stavig had to photography over 240 homes and garages in the area, as well as comb through endless data on microfiche at the UIC library.

Both women restored their own West Ridge bungalows almost to their original glory.   They agree that it was not for the faint of heart.   First they had to undo the restoration efforts that owners during the 60’s had done.   “In doing so, they removed the jewelry of the house,” says Brewer.   Three stained glass windows had been removed and replaced with Lannon Stone filling.   Then they had to remove a non-working fireplace and the work just continued from there.

In Spring of 2003 the pair decided to create a grass roots movement to get area bungalow owners together to discuss bungalow renovation, plants, masonry, plumbing and preservation.   Sixteen residents attended the first WRBN (West Ridge Bungalow Neighbors) meeting.   The result was a commitment from all to assist each other in preserving and appreciating these homes.

In their work getting the West Ridge bungalows registered, they discovered that the National Register requires a number of bungalows per block.   Ironically, that eliminated their homes.   That did not stop Brewer and Stavig though, who are committed to helping others get their historic district designation.

Reprinted from WRBN Blog